NONPARTISANSHIP POLICY GUIDELINES FOR LOCAL LEAGUES
Your local board's nonpartisanship policy should be discussed and set at the beginning of the League year. Your policies should be determined so that they can be consulted when the need arises.
The bylaws of the League state: “The League may take action on governmental measures and policies in the public interest. It shall not support or oppose any political party or any candidate.”
"To ensure the credibility of the League as a nonpartisan organization, each League’s board of directors is responsible for drafting and carrying out its own nonpartisan policy and for seeing that both members and the public understand the League’s nonpartisan role.” League Basics is available in the Tools for Leaders section of the LWVUS website, www.lwv.org.
General guidelines are as follows:
A. Local board members should not run for or hold public office.
B. Key board members must not engage in any political activity or in activity in support of a candidate.
C. Based on the position of the League in the community, each local board must decide, on an individual basis, the effect on the League on:
1. Participation of a board member in partisan social affairs.
2. Signing petitions for specific causes.
D. In making its decision, the board must take into consideration
1. The public prominence of the board member and the sensitivity of his/her position on the board.
2. Possible conflict of interest in assigning board portfolios.
3. The need for greater discretion when local elections are involved, including board of education.
Key board positions are those of president and voters service director, and in general, those officers must refrain from political activity. Each board must decide for itself what other board positions, if any, are particularly sensitive in the community.
Service to the community as well as practical political advantage for League program may be gained if a board member participates on an appointed board or commission. However, the local board should take the above guidelines into consideration when deciding the advisability of a board member's participation on such a board.
The State Board Nonpartisan Political Policy below is offered as a sample.
for LWVNJ Board of Directors/Leadership Committee
The Bylaws of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey state that the LWV "shall not support or oppose any political party or candidate." The purpose of the LWVNJ's nonpartisan policy is to assure the credibility and integrity of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey as an organization that does not support or oppose any candidate or political party. The ability of the LWVNJ to be an effective voice for the public interest will be achieved only if its policies and positions are seen as independent of partisan influence. Thus, those persons making such policies must also be perceived as being free of all partisan influence. Only to the extent that the public and its elected officials are convinced of the LWVNJ's genuine nonpartisanship will the League be able to render effective voter service and gain a wide base of support for its positions on governmental issues.
1. Elected Office: No member of the Board of Directors shall run for or hold elective office at the national, state, county or municipal level except school board, fire district or nonpartisan commission. If a board member declares for an affected elected office, the member shall resign from the board. Public notices released by LWVNJ announcing the resignation of a board member to run for political office shall be carefully worded to avoid any appearance of endorsing the member's candidacy.
2. Political Party Office: No LWVNJ board member shall run for, hold or be appointed to a political party office at the national, state, county, or municipal level.
3. Endorsements and Campaigns: The president, voter service vice president (or director) and advocacy vice president (or director) may not publicly endorse or work for any national, state, county, or municipal political campaign or candidate. Other board members, with discretion, may work for a candidate's campaign. Any board member involved in a candidate's campaign must inform the board. Although it is the intent of this policy that such activities would normally be acceptable, the final determination is at the discretion of the board.
4. Campaign Contributions: All board members may make campaign contributions within legal limits.
5. Nominating Petitions: All board members may sign a nominating petition, except those referred to in #3 - president, voter service and advocacy vice presidents or directors.
6. Campaign Publicity and Participation: It is never acceptable for the name of the League of Women Voters to be used in identifying a board member working in a candidate's campaign or in any manner implying support or opposition by the LWVNJ to a political party or candidate for any elected office.
7. Appointments to boards, commissions and committees:
LWVNJ board may encourage and assist League members to secure appointments to government boards, commissions and committees. These recommendations shall be approved by the board. Appointees serve as individuals rather than as formal representatives of the League unless the position was offered to the organization.
If the seat is for the League, the board shall appoint a new representative when the board member’s term of office or the staff member’s employment by the League has ended. The board may also appoint a League member who is not on the state board to represent the League.
State board members may serve on private sector and nonprofit boards. Conflicts between the appointee’s League position and appointed position must be brought to the attention of the League Board, which will determine the appropriate action.
8. League programs: LWVNJ will not invite anyone who has declared as a candidate for any office to participate in any kind of program, whether as a speaker or member of a panel, unless it is a candidate’s forum. This ban would include members of his/her staff if an incumbent.
A good rule of thumb: federal officials cannot be asked during even numbered years and state officials cannot be asked during odd numbered years.
9. Moderators and Timekeepers: A League member who runs for, or is elected to, any partisan office (including party committee) shall not be eligible to moderate any partisan forum. This prohibition shall run from the time such an office is first sought until the position is relinquished or the term ends. League members who are visibly active in a party in ways other than public office should also not, ordinarily, moderate partisan forums.
It is preferable that a member with such partisan activities or offices should not moderate even nonpartisan forums, such as nonpartisan municipal elections and board of education elections.
It is recommended, but not required, that timekeepers follow the same guidelines.
10. Exclusion: These policies do not apply to the family of a board member.
11. Situations not covered by this policy will be addressed as needed by the Board of Directors.